Her white-blonde hair shines in the sun as she browses the collars and leashes. She turns, and a breeze ruffles her locks as her eyes find me, suddenly a new friend.
“She’s very friendly,” says Judy Ransom, the owner of this 7-month-old golden retriever.
Rocklane Hungry Hungry Hippo, or Hayley by her “call name,” eagerly buries her dark nose into the offered palm of my hand, only to expect adoring strokes of her feathery fur in return.
“She loves the attention she gets at the shows; that’s what it boils down to,” Ransom says.
Hayley makes 360-degree surveys of the area, constantly scanning the crowds for potential new friends.
She came from a board game litter. Her brother’s name is Parcheesi, and Ransom says she thinks Hayley got the better end of the deal. Randy Ransom, Judy’s husband, says the name fits Hayley because of the way she gulps water.
The Ransoms traveled from Spokane, Wash., for the 54th annual Five Valley Kennel Club Dog Show at the Western Montana Fairgrounds in Missoula, Mont., which took place June 22-24.
The show is open to the public for entries as long as the dog is American Kennel Club registered, said Maxine Lane, the 2008 show chair. Almost 1,600 dogs competed this year in the three categories of Conformation, Obedience and Rally-O. The competition stays the same every day but the judges rotate. Ultimately, the dogs get three chances to win throughout the show.
In Conformation, judges look at whether a dog’s body meets breed standards, Lane said.
Hayley competed in Conformation in the puppy class all three days of the show. She took first place twice and second place once.
“She really likes being around the other dogs in the ring,” Judy Ransom said. “She always seems to do better with the older dogs; she acts older.”
The Obedience competition aptly shows how well a dog obeys its owner. Rally combines obedience and agility; the dogs maneuver through a course but must also sit and stay in certain places, Lane said.
This year, a young man with his Scottish deerhound won Best in Show Sunday and Monday. “Oh, beautiful dog,” Lane said.
Not all the dogs at the show could be as perfect as the deerhound, and not all of them even competed, exemplified by the Ransoms.
Randy Ransom stands to the side with another golden retriever, an 8-month-old named Riley. The darker colored Riley smiles while he gently pants in the heat. For Conformation competition, Riley does not have quite the right build, but the Ransoms hope to enter him in agility competitions when he’s ready.
Hayley did well in the FVKC Dog Show, and Judy Ransom did as well in her first weekend of handling. “We’re just getting started and loving it,” she said. The Ransoms will move on to other competitions; they go to about one each month during the summer.
The FVKC Dog Show is over this year, but it will return to the fairgrounds next year.
“It’s like skiing or horseracing. It’s just a way to get together with people,” Lane said. “We’ll be back, don’t worry.”